Nov 20, 2014

Giving Thanks Part Two

Instead of listing my thankfulness every day, this year I'm doing them in chunks. I talked about my first ten already so here are the next ten...

I really should have mentioned this one last time, because it fit better, but I got distracted by a kid or two and forgot what I was going to say, so I'll just start with it.

11. The adults who influence my kids. Uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins, Sunday School teachers, co-op teachers, Scout leaders, art and music and Bright Lights teachers, coaches, folks at church, and parents of their friends. Thank you all so much for the love and care you show, the wisdom that you model and the knowledge you impart. None of it goes unnoticed.

12. Laughter. I was raised in a family with a strong sense of humor. The ability to laugh at myself and my circumstances has been invaluable in the rough patches of life.

13. Those rough patches. It's easier to be grateful for them after they are over. But looking back at so many of the hard times I can see how much they changed me, helped me grow, and strengthened me for the next rough patch!

14. Books. What would I do without something to read? I do not remember not knowing how to read anything I picked up and I have always devoured books.

15. That my husband and kids love books. My older two kids are voracious bookworms and my younger two, while still struggling with reading themselves both absolutely love being read to.

16. Chocolate. It would be a sad world without a little chocolate in it. And it's a sign of my great self-restraint that I waited this long to bring it up!

17. Beauty. I am not artistic nor creative, but I love looking at beautiful things: sunsets, babies, the blue Texas sky, flowers, oh, so many things that speak of a creative God who lovingly shares His glorious imagination with us.

18. Creature comforts. Too often I take things like hot water, big comfy house, heat, safety, electricity, a soft bed, clean water, and such completely for granted. They are a gift, though. A completely undeserved gift.

19. Peace. In the midst of so many storms in my life, when I turned to God, He offered me peace. Hard to describe or explain, but a priceless treasure nonetheless.

20. Health. For me, for my family. Despite many a rough start, we have four perfectly healthy kids. Because of those rough starts, I don't take that for granted. We are so blessed with sturdy bodies and quick minds!

Nov 18, 2014

Our Favorite Reviews of 2014

Each year on the Schoolhouse Crew we are asked to vote for our favorite products of the year. These votes are tabulated and compiled into the Blue Ribbon Awards

But our (as in us penguins) personal favorites aren't always represented in that list. So I thought I would poll the kids and let them vote on the products we were blessed with this year. We picked the ones we loved the most and them we ranked them, so without further ado, I give you Penguin Product Favorites:
(the links are to our reviews)





I picked my Top Ten Favorites of the Year, which turned out to be the top eleven because I just couldn't decide my favorite for tenth place. I also threw in some of my favorite pictures of the kids even though they might or might not be represented in my list...

Tied for 10th:

Purposeful Design a book of cool facts and beautiful photographs to show kids the wonders of creation. We haven't this book long, but the kids are still regularly perusing it.

Fast Track Bible Pack from Wizzy Gizmo a great pack of sturdy cards that give an overview of the New Testament books. We still use these in our Creche Conference.


Philosophy Adventure This was not, you notice, a favorite of the kids, but I love that it is teaching them to think a little more deeply and work a little harder. Kaytie and Nate are over halfway through the program.


Mango We use it to learn Spanish. Kaytie and Nate use it daily. They love it and have both asked if we can renew our subscription when it runs out.


iWitness books from Apologia These are simply awesome books. They have so much fascinating information and so many pictures of actual artifacts that the kids will often sit and look through them on their own. I love just looking through them! I learned a lot of tidbits from iWitness!


Ubersmart Math Facts Another one that the kids don't exactly "love" but that has proved beneficial to their education. They use it daily and they do love when they master a level! It is a source of competition for all four of them, and they are all gradually learning those pesky facts! Some products don't have to be fun to be great.


Visual Latin This was a repeat review product because I loved it so much the first time! And now that we have grown into it a little bit, it is working great for Kaytie. She won't admit that she enjoys it, but she decided on her own to double up and make sure she finished a lesson before the end of our term of school!


Trident phone case It's still on my phone and when my husband talked about getting me a new case, I said no. We did take the cover off the face part though (sorry, no technical electronic terms will be found here...) because it was smeared easily, was often gross, and sometimes kept the touch screen from working correctly. 


ARTistic Pursuits I love this curriculum! Especially at the middle school level. I love how much she learned and that she could do it all independently! And I'm not the only one that loves it... since she finished both of the ones we have, Kaytie keeps asking if we can get the third book.


Math Wrap Ups from Learning Wrap Ups Math facts memorization that is FUN! What's not to love? Every morning the kids grab a Wrap Up, I set a timer, and they race to clock to beat another level. If they can do the Wrap Up correctly in 30 seconds or less then they get to move on. A lot of competing here, with themselves and each other. This is something they never let me forget to do each day!


Fix It! Grammar It's not in their top ten, but this is a wonderful curriculum! I love IEW and I have loved all the products of theirs I've used! Fix It! has been the best grammar we have ever used and, believe me, we have used a lot. The built-in review of learned concepts is perfect for the way my kids learn and it only takes us a few minutes each day. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that Fix It! is not only my top choice for this year, but it is in the top three of all time. 

Nov 15, 2014

Giving Thanks

I usually try to post every day in November: a list of the things I am thankful for. But I never last the entire month. I'm not sure I've ever lasted a week. But that doesn't mean I'm not thankful! So this year, I decided to just pick a day and list some things I'm thankful for. I'm going to break it up into a few posts, so here's the first ten.

1. My God. He is not only holy and just and faithful and true but He is loving and compassionate and merciful. I am thankful that even after 40 years of not getting it right, He still hasn't given up on me but is gently, patiently, kindly giving me not just second chances but 100 million chances.

2. My husband. He is all the things in that post and even more. It's not what he does that makes me grateful that he is mine, but simply who he is. Because he. Is. Awesome!

3. Kaytie. She who made my dreams come true. I badly wanted a boy when I was expecting her, but since the moment she was born, I have never been sorry that she was a girl. I love her courage to try something new, her big sister care of her siblings, her joy in giving gifts, her delight in creating and the fact that she comes to chat with me at night because she doesn't sleep. I do wish she slept sometimes, though.

4. Nate. He is just like his dad and that means that sometimes he confuses me, sometimes he drives me crazy and always he amazes me. He is smart and cocky and helpful and opinionated and talented and obsessive. He loves to talk and he tells hilarious jokes with impeccable timing. His ideas are not limited by a lack of imagination and the fact that he doesn't always remember facts correctly just adds to his quirky charm. He is charming. And he is most definitely quirky. He is the most challenging of the kids but he is also the one most likely to come to my aid when I am a damsel in distress and he is the one most likely to stop by and give me a hug and an "I love you, Mom" for no particular reason.

5. Daniel. He is all boy, but he is also the sweetest. The one most likely to give up his way for the others unless they make him feel taken advantage of. He will paint the girls' fingernails and brush their hair. He spends the rest of his time bug hunting, snail taming, and digging elaborate tunnels. He is my math loving kid who is reluctant to read. He is musical, funny, and brilliant.

6. Abbie. Shy in public, but wild and crazy at home. She is the one who is often voted "the one of us most likely to actually be an alien" by unanimous consent by the siblings. She is all about sparkles and glitter and fairies. But she can run with the boys and keep up, too! Tangles in her hair and dirt on her face do not keep her from twirling in a tutu like a princess.

7. My family. There are way too many to mention them all individually but I was blessed with God-fearing parents (and step-mom), some awesome big brothers and some great sisters-in-law. I have lots of cool nephews and nieces, an adorable great-nephew and one fabulous mother-in-law for whom I am most grateful. And let's not forget the cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles that impacted my raising.

8. Friends. Both in real life and those "hard to explain" internet friends. Maybe especially those hard to explain internet friends. I have five awesome friends who have chatted with me daily for over nine years now. We have been together through moves, births, deaths, job losses, new jobs, joys, sorrows, struggles, and just daily life. Even though I haven't met all of them in person, there is nothing I would not do for them if I could. I'm grateful that a random google search many years ago resulted in knowing these ladies.

9. My kids' friends. I am so grateful that they all have good friends that they love, and that love them back. They have a pack of kids surrounding them that build them up, draw them to God and exert positive peer pressure.

10. My rights and freedoms and the people who put their lives on the line daily to defend them.

Nov 12, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Purposeful Design

As Young Earth Creationists, it can be challenging to find quality materials to support our worldview. Since I am always on the lookout for them I was happy to be asked to review the book Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation from Purposeful Design. Written by Jay Schabacker, a former aerospace scientist and businessman, this book is a beautifully illustrated showcase of a multitude of scientific facts that support the idea of Intelligent Design.

Intended for all ages, it is based on the seven days of Creation (yes, even the day of rest is mentioned) and each day has its own chapter. So the first chapter discusses the universe and how the lack of chaos and the presence of order points strongly to an intelligence that put it all together and set it in motion. The second chapter details the water cycle and its intricacies. The third chapter tells of the importance of plants. The fourth chapter takes us into space with the importance of the earth's tilt, seasons, the moon, and how necessary stars are for us. The fifth chapter talks about some little details of birds and fish that don't seem possible to have "just happened". And the sixth chapter discusses land creatures and the amazing complexity of the human body. Finally, the seventh chapter talks about the day of rest.

Each chapter is upheld with Bible verses, illustrated with graphs and tables, and filled with beautiful
photographs that reinforce not only the text but the breathtaking grandeur of God's creation.

Although I personally didn't encounter any new information in this book, I didn't find the book to be overly preachy or weakly stretching for evidence, rather it was an enjoyable science journey for all of us.

Along with the book, we had access to an ebook that is a workbook called The Young Explorers Club. This is a companion to Purposeful Design and facilitates discussion and further learning. It is simply a bunch of questions, (open-ended, multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank) Scripture verses, places to draw, and photographs to help the kids solidify and retain what they learned in the book. It's a PDF so you can print it or just read off your screen. Included is another ebook that contains not only the questions but the answers as well.

I read the book aloud to all the kids during our usual Creche Conference time. I intended to read a chapter a day, but some of the chapters got a little long and we needed to break them up into two sessions. We chatted about the book as I read and then at the end of each reading we went over the workbook questions orally. None of my kids enjoy the physical act of writing, so when we work as a group, we almost always work out loud.

While I enjoyed Purposeful Design I don't feel that it was intended as a read aloud. The website calls it a "coffee table" book and I fully agree. The kids engaged with it much more when they were able to pick it up and peruse it at their leisure. I do feel that it clearly declares the wonder and awe of creation and expresses the declaration of all the universe of an intelligent, loving, purposeful Creator. It is definitely a book that I will keep available for the kids to look at and re-read and that I am sure they will engage with again and again.

Kaytie: I liked it because it was factual. It has a lot of pictures and shows us how God designated everything just right.  There wasn't anything I didn't like. 

Nate: It was interesting. I didn't know that if we had 72% water in the oceans it would constantly flood or that if we had 70% water then the entire world would dry up. I liked the pictures, especially the one of the galaxy... and the nebula, too. I liked the nebula.

Daniel: I liked it because it told us about the world's creation and what God said. It told us about the Bible. It told us what would happen if God didn't create the world with care and if God didn't make ice freeze from the bottom up. It taught me the answer to one of the major questions I've been asking: Why does ice float? 

Abbie: It told us about God and how He created the earth. I liked it. My favorite part was the map of what goes on in the cell.

You can buy Purposeful Design for $18.95 and you will also get a free download of the Young Explorers Club Curriculum.

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Nov 8, 2014

Kaytie's Art Class

One of Kaytie's friends has a big sister who is studying art in college. She decided to offer classes and we jumped on it! Kaytie has been having so much fun.

And learning a lot as well. The other three kids are asking to take the next class that Mikala offers!

Nov 5, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: If He Had Not Come

What would it have been like if Jesus had never come to our world? What impact did He make that we would miss if He had never been here? These are the questions addressed in the picture book If He Had Not Come. Originally written by Nan Weeks and published in 1938, this story is about a young boy who dreams a strange dream on Christmas Eve. In his dream, inspired by the Scripture verse John 15:22, he experiences a world without the influence of Jesus. David Nicholson, a retired teacher, short term missionary, father, and grandfather has shared this story with his own family for years. Eventually, he decided it needed to be shared with others.

If He Had Not Come is a beautiful, hardcover picture book that is intended for kids ages 6 and up. The illustrations are gorgeous. The story is engaging and thought provoking. Bobby, the main character, is changed by his understanding of what a Jesus-less world would have been like. As the story progresses, his focus changes from Christmas presents to compassion for the people he meets (the real reason Jesus came) to thankfulness that a Savior did actually come to us.

We enjoyed this book. I read it aloud to all the kids while they enjoyed the illustrations. Then we used the open-ended questions about the story in the back of the book as a springboard to a discussion. There are six paragraphs of questions and it took us awhile to work our way through them, but we all learned a lot. Next, we explored the Going Deeper page: four paragraphs of questions about why Jesus came, what His impact was, and what the spiritual implications are. Finally, we read through the Gospel message, the ABCs of Salvation.

This is a book that will definitely be going on our "Read Every Christmas Season" list and, starting this Christmas, we will implement the idea in the very back of the book about how to use a Christmas tree to remind us of eternal life in Jesus.

As usual, I asked the kids what they thought and they said:

Kaytie: It was interesting. It showed a point that most people don't ever look at. I think it was an accurate picture of what would have happened if Jesus hadn't come. I recommend it. 

Nate: Well, it was interesting. I liked it. It made me glad that Jesus came to earth!

Daniel: I liked it because it was about Jesus and what the world would be like without Him. Before it told us it was a dream, I already knew it was a dream. But before I thought that, I thought he had slept through Christmas. My favorite part was when he woke up and he found out it was Christmas. 

Abbie: I liked it. If Jesus hadn't come everyone would be mean and no one would care for anybody else. Like, if someone was sick, no one would care for them. I liked looking at the pictures. 

You can buy your own hardback copy of If He Had Not Come for $18.95 or you can grab the ebook version for $3.99.

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